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Eiger North Face 1938 Route Winter Ascent Beta and Free Topo

Updated: May 2, 2023

The Eiger North Face is one of the classic alpine routes in the world. Long, steep, committing and a story made famous by books like The White Spider and Clint Eastwoods movie the Eiger Sanction, it is a must do climb for many alpinists. There is much written about the North Face of the Eiger and also some excellent topos available online. I thought however it might be good to share the climbing gear we took with us for a winter ascent.

Firstly the route is long. It is also generally very run out on moderate terrain so if your are not comfortable solo climbing moderate ice, leading M4 with limited protection and in general moving efficiently on a big climb then this is not the route for you. The crux pitches feel around M5-6 and have plenty of fixed gear making them fairly straight forward to climb. We struck the face with good conditions and I could imagine with less ice you would have allot more rock fall.

Single set of camalots .3 – 2

Single set of nuts sizes DMM 1 – 7

10 quick draws

2 x anchor slings each with 2 x locking carabineers

5 x ice screws , Conditions will dictate if you need to use these or not. but if you find allot of black ice on the route having a hand full of screws will be useful. We used 4 out of our five mostly for moving together on easy terrain. All route cruxs are protected with rock protection.

1 x v thread tool – not used


Single 70m Tendon Master Rope 8.9mm Another option would be two 60m half ropes. Many of the pitches were long and we did find the 70m rope useful for linking some of them. I would personally favour taking a skinny single over one half rope as the rock was quite loose and it would be easy to knock something off and cut a skinner rope.

1 x 35 – 45 L climbing pack NZAT Macpac Pursuit 40

1 x Jet Boil Sol TI 800ml with 2 x mini gas cans.

2 x dehydrated meals per person

10 x a mix of bars, chomps and GU per person

1 x block of chocolate

1 x packet biscuits

1 x pastry hmmmmmmm per person

1 x breakfast per person

1 x 3/4 length z rest

We each took two pairs of leading gloves and one warm belay mitt plus a thin fleece liner glove. I never neede to use the mitts but if it had got colder they would have been handy. Our temps on route ranged from -10 – minus 15 so quite warm for a winter ascent.

Base layer thermols covered by a Macpac Prothermal , Macpac Fitz Roy Soft Shells and a prototype high loft Macpac Fleece. We also each carried a belay jacket. Mine being the Macpac Equinox. With this clothing combination i was warm for the whole route including the bivy’s. We did not take bivy bags.

We started the climb after lunch and due to a forecast of snow decided to bivy on route and finish the following day before the bad weather came in. We made the decision to not go for a single day push due to the fact that each of us had not climbed much together and it had been awhile since Chaz had done a big alpine route. Taking the option of a night at the Death Bivvy was really nice. It made for two moderate days of climbing. A fast and light team however would have no problems climbing the route in less than a day in winter if the conditions are good.

The Descent. This is described well in the following route topo. One words of caution though, about an hour after we finished our descent the serac let rip and avalanched approx 40% of the descent route. Move fast when you are under this and dont stop moving until you reach the train station. The avalanche path basically went all the way to the bottom of the descent line. We were bivvied next to the train track for the night and got covered by the powder cloud but were in a safe position.

For a video of the climb check out

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